Monday, June 27, 2011

Deacon Qualifications – 1 Tim 3:8-13

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)
Likewise – for Me
I’m still looking at the qualifications of church leaders with the goal of being like them whether I serve in their capacity or not. These qualities should apply to all Christians, men or women. I can’t look at God’s Word, read the description of godly leaders and use the loophole that I’m not in their position to escape doing what God wants. James 1:22 But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (NLT) If I read these qualifications and assume that I don’t have to live up to these standards, then I’m fooling myself.

In most churches, elders run the show and deacons do the work. I wondered how this came about until I looked up the Greek word for deacon (diakonos) and found that in twenty-seven other verses, the word is translated as either servant or minister in the KJV and servant in most other translations. Paul calls Jesus (Rom15:8), Apollos (1 Cor 3:4), himself and those working with him (2 Cor 6:4) a diakonos.
I thought it odd, at first, to think of Jesus as a deacon but He is the perfect definition of a deacon. He served completely to the point of dying on the cross to take away our sins. If I want to be a diakonos, then I need to have the same attitude and mind of Jesus. Jesus said that means being a servant or diakonos. Matt 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant [diakonos]. (NIV)

Paul was an elder and an Apostle as well as a deacon. He set the pattern so that all elders are also deacons or servants.
All of us should be servants, however it appears from these passages that some servant jobs within the church are official positions and require a qualified person. That qualification includes all the qualification for being an elder and more.

Several of the qualities seem to be either elaborations or summaries of the elder’s qualities. Since I’ve already expounded on the elder’s qualities, I’ll only address those that aren’t mentioned for an elder.
Mystery of the Faith

Paul explained the biggest mystery of the faith to the Ephesians. Eph 3:4-6 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (RSV) To be a servant of God, I must hold on to this, believe it, and live it. This means that every person I meet is a potential joint heir of salvation if not already a brother or sister in Jesus.
For a long time, salvation – knowing God – was through the Jewish sacrificial system and laws. Finally, salvation came to the rest of us by faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, almost every generation of believers has wandered from this truth in one way or another. Some have excluded people from the church because of their skin color, economic status, or other outward conditions. Some have included them in the church but segregated them. I wonder what their reaction is in heaven when they meet.

I don’t want to give the impression that the Church should accept everyone. Paul clearly said that I need to be discerning on moral grounds. In 1 Cor 5:9 he made the distinction that I should not associate with a person who claims to be a Christian and is immoral. If the person is immoral but doesn’t claim to be a Christian, then I can view them as a potential Christian.
Having a clear conscience in this area is vital for a deacon. How can I serve another person if think they can never be saved or that they are beneath my social or racial position? James 2:1 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (RSV) James made this point when he warned us against favoring the rich over the poor.

Fruit Inspectors
People who want to do whatever they want, sinful or not, do not like verses in the Bible that hold us accountable to each other. They quote Jesus. Matt 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (NIV) They usually have no idea what this really means and they don’t know the next verse. Matt 7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV) Jesus’ warning was not to ever judge, but to let me know that if I declare that a person is sinning in some area, then it proves that I know right from wrong and will also be held accountable for my sins. For people who aren’t forgiven through the blood of Jesus, this is a dire warning because they will have no excuse when condemned to hell. However, for us sinners who have the blood of Jesus washing us, it is a different story. We have recognized the plank in our own eyes and turned to Jesus for forgiveness. We will not be condemned but are able to help others find the same forgiveness once they acknowledge their sin and need for Jesus to be their Savior. They will then be able to turn from that sin and escape condemnation.

Paul says that the deacons must be proved blameless when they are tested. This means that there must be a standard that they are judged against. The people that are doing the testing and judging must also be willing to be judged by the same standard. Paul has listed the qualities of leaders. Matt 7:20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. (NASB) It is up to us to recognize whether these qualities are being met by observing their behavior then making a judgment whether or not they measure up.
Wives

The elder’s wives were not mentioned, but it stands to reason that an elder’s wife must also meet the same qualifications of a deacon’s. Why would a man’s wife make any difference whether or not he could serve in either capacity? I think it is because a husband and wife are a team in ministry.
Consider the help that a godly wife is to a person who wants to serve the Lord. Prov 31:10-11 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. (NKJV) When a man becomes a deacon or an elder, he has added responsibilities that will test and try them both. However, a virtuous wife will be one he can trust to help bear the burden. Their ministry will flourish because of this.

On the other hand, if a wife doesn’t meet these qualification, especially the one who slanders other, she will cause all sorts of grief. Prov 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones. (NKJV) A husband should be able to share with his wife what is going on in the church. He shouldn’t have to keep it secret from her because she can’t keep a confidence. If she isn’t faithful in all things, he will have a very difficult time serving. An irreverent wife or one who isn’t temperate is just as bad. Prov 21:9 Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (NKJV)
Benefits of Leadership

Becoming a leader in the church has benefits. They aren’t power, prestige, or money. They are spiritual. If you follow the lives of Steven and Phillip, the first two deacons mentioned in Acts 6:5, you will see how they were used by God in mighty ways beyond the duties that they accepted.
Philem 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (NIV) As we share our faith by both word and deed, we grow. We learn by doing and we develop into the people that God wants us to be. Whether in the position of elder, deacon, or simply a servant of Jesus, we are blessed when we obey Him and serve others.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Elder Qualifications – Part 2 – 1 Tim 3:4-7

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (ESV)

Manage My Household
In the U.S., we usually think of household as a husband, wife, and children. However, that is not the biblical view of a household. Gen 15:3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." (NIV) Matt 24:45 Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? (NASB) In both the Old and New Testaments, the concept of a household included the servants, slaves and their families. In the case of Abram, this included a private army. Gen 14:14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (NIV) There are many more references to the household of Pharaoh and the households of the kings of Judah and Israel. The book of Philemon was written to a Christian who had slaves (bondservants) who were also considered part of his household.

When I expanded my concept of a household, this command to be able to manage my own household took on new meaning. Consider if I owned my own business and had several employees. How I manage this business would fall under the same concept of managing my household. I should even apply the same concept to how I do my work whether I have a business or people reporting to me or not. Dealing with people, finances, planning, and setting godly goals are all concepts that should be included in managing a household.

One very important mark of managing a household is how a person is able to raise his own children. The verse is quite clear that the man must have a good relationship with the children. Eph 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (NKJV) I think this is one of the best verses to describe raising children. Too many fathers are too controlling, distant, or stern. They don’t have a relationship with their children because they don’t take the time. They exasperate their children by laying down rules based on the Bible, but without loving and nurturing them. On the other side of the coin are the fathers who provide no godly instruction for their children. They may have a lot of worldly instruction but nothing that is consistent with Scripture.
Deut 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (NKJV)

An elder, or any Christian for that matter, should live these verses. As I love the lord and commit myself completely to Him, He will be integrated completely into my life so that there won’t be any discrepancy between the way I live and what I say regarding my faith. When I talk about the commands, I can explain how they are beneficial to our life here and crucial to our eternal life. Whatever I’m doing, as we talk about them I will be aware of them and live according to them. My children will see this as the normal way of life and will want to emulate it. They will know about the Lord at an early age and will want to know Him as well.
Managing the Church

When selecting an elder, I would hope that a church would investigate a person’s personal finances as well as how he conducts himself at work or runs his business. A person who has filed for bankruptcy, is deeply in debt, or is living beyond his means probably isn’t managing his household well. If a person can’t handle his own finances, I would not want him to be making financial decisions for my church. If he is a poor manager or employee, why would I expect him to excel when managing a church? If he is legalistic, domineering, and controlling with his children so that they don’t respect him and rebel, what makes me think that he will not also be this way when dealing with the people of the church? If he provides no discipline for his children so that they run wild, I doubt he would be able to disciple a church member who has strayed.

I think this same principle applies to anyone who is seeking to serve in any public position. If people can’t be honest in their private lives, then there is a high probability that they will also succumb to the temptations of power and position making bad decisions that will impact our country and the world. It makes sense that a person who would conduct an adulterous or otherwise illegitimate relationship has a moral flaw that would eventually show up in the way they govern.
Not a Recent Convert

It is amazing how often new believers are thrust into leadership positions because they have experience in the world. The assumption is that they will now be able to use all those gifts for the glory of God without clinging to any of the world’s corrupt ways of doing things. In many cases, God has worked miracles, but Paul has given us a very important warning. Don’t do it. Conceit and condemnation of the devil is the result.
The devil was once a majestic angel but his conceit was his downfall. Isaiah described this in poetic terms. Isa 14:12-14 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.'” (RSV) This is something I need to hear all the time and certainly anyone in any position of authority needs to take this warning to heart. It is easy to think of myself more highly than I should. I can imagine being a great Bible scholar and teacher and that can lead to being puffed up. I wouldn’t go as far as thinking I’m like God much less thinking I can be above Him, however any time I try to be something more than what He wants me to be or go in a different direction than He wants, I’m setting my own will against His. This is essentially the same sin that overtook Satan. When I do this, I’m in danger of God’s loving correction. Rev 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. (NASB) Thanks to Jesus Christ and the forgiveness I have in Him, I will never face the same fate as Satan. Isa 14:15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. (RSV)

Good Reputation
It is interesting that Paul would be concerned with what outsiders think of an elder. 1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (ESV) There is always the possibility that I may be slandered in spite of how well I conduct myself. Even when slandered, keeping my conduct honorable will provide me with a good reputation. If I’m honest in my business dealings, help my neighbors, drive legally, and in every way attempt to do right, I won’t have to worry about my reputation. Interviewing a potential elder’s neighbors would not be a bad idea. Unless what they have to say is obvious slander, then what they say should be taken into consideration when selecting an elder. I hope that my neighbors have good things to say about me.

The Devils Snare
If my reputation or that of an elder is not good, it brings disgrace on the name of Christ. Ultimately, it isn’t about me, but about Jesus. If I bring shame on His name then I’m so far from where I want to be and should be in my Christian life that I can’t imagine how I would ever be able to face my Savior. This is one of the devil’s traps. If I shame the name of Jesus, the devil tries to convince me that I’ve blown it. He says, “Hey, you call yourself a Christian and yet look at this big terrible sin. Because it has gone public, you have a bad reputation. Look at all the people who are avoiding Christ because of your behavior. They don’t want to be a hypocrite like you. Why don’t you just go crawl in a hole and never speak the name of Jesus to anyone again. You are no good and rotten. You might as well get it over with and kill yourself. Jesus would be better off without you.” I’ve met people who feel this way. Some believe they have committed the unpardonable sin. Others fall into depression and do actually consider suicide.

When this happens, I have to remember some truths about God. The first is that that repentance and confession will restore me to fellowship with Him. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB)
The second thing to remember is that Jesus’ sacrifice has completely cleansed me from all sins, past, present, and future. (Heb 10:11-14, 1 Peter 3:18) Because of this, I know that even my sins that have brought shame to the name of Jesus are forgiven. This doesn’t give me a license to sin, but when I do turn from my sin, I can have a clear conscience because my guilt has been removed. Heb 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter  the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by  the new and living way that he opened for us through  the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have  a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts  sprinkled clean  from an evil conscience and our bodies  washed with pure water. (ESV) Satan is the one that wants to keep me feeling guilty because I won’t be useful to Jesus. Instead of focusing on His forgiveness, I will focus on myself and my pity party. I need to remember who the enemy is and who it is that wants me to feel guilty. Jesus doesn’t want me to feel guilty, He wants me to serve and love Him. (Rom 8:38-39)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elder Qualifications – Part 1 – 1 Tim 3:1-4

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. (NASB)
Serious Issue
I’m very impressed that Paul used the same phrase to introduce the characteristics of those who would be elders and deacons in the church as he did to emphasize some of the foundational teachings of the Christian faith. This points out how import it is to make sure that the people who serve in these capacities are indeed measured by these standards. If our salvation, our hope, and our eternity are introduced with these words, then introducing our leaders’ qualities should not be taken lightly but with great respect. That may be why Paul said that a person who want to fill this office desires a noble task as the NIV says. It isn’t a job to be taken lightly.

This list of qualities isn’t just for elders. I want to be able to say these things for myself, whether I ever become an elder or not. They are characteristics that any disciple of Christ should want to have.
Elder, Overseer, or Bishop

Whether we call the person an elder, overseer, or bishop is of little importance. Some make a big deal out of using the proper name for the position. In doing so, they heap undo attention on the wrong part of the verses. In some cultures, the name may convey the wrong idea. Those who have grown up in the Catholic faith may be very offended if a layperson in the church were called a bishop because they have a certain concept of a bishop being a highly exalted role with exceptional holiness and power in the church. While he does oversee several congregations, he also has special duties that no one else can perform. This is significantly different than the layperson described in these passages. Yet, there are others who think we are not being true to the Word unless we call the layperson a bishop. The proper Greek translation is most often rendered as overseer, but I’ll use the word elder just because that’s my culture.

Beyond Reproach
An elder must first of all be beyond reproach. That means that no one should be able to criticize him and say he has done something wrong. I fail on the first one attribute! Is it possible for anyone to live a life where no one would criticize him? Look at Jesus’ life. He had critics all over the place. They blamed Him for breaking the Sabbath, disrespecting the traditions of the elders, associating with sinners, and many more things. Personally, my aim is this: Acts 24:16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (NIV) That means I have to go to God and ask for forgiveness when I’ve done something wrong. I need to go to a person I’ve offended and ask for forgiveness. I need to make restitution when that is part of the process of making something right. If I must do this because I’m saved and it is the way a saved person should behave after sinning. If I do this in humility then others may consider me beyond reproach. However, if I’m doing it in order to be saved, impress people, or become an elder as a position of power, then I’m not beyond reproach.  
Husband of One Wife
An elder must be the husband of one wife. For clarification, this means that an elder has to be a man. It doesn’t mean he has to be married. There are many arguments that get started over this requirement. Some say that means that an elder must never have been divorced and married another woman. Some say that it is OK if the previous marriage and divorce occurred when the man was not a Christian. Some say it is OK if the man was a Christian but the divorce was biblical, meaning the woman left because she was an unbeliever or committed adultery and married another man. Some say that any of these would disqualify a man because they believe that once married always married and even if the previous wife has remarried the man has two wives. Whew, did I miss any conditions?

The whole divorce remarriage thing is way too complicated to go into here so I’ll just say what I think. The Bible says married to one woman. I don’t think it Paul was trying to address all the possibilities but was referring to the current martial state of the person who is considering as an elder without regard to his past marital situations. The primary reason I believe this is because I know God forgives all sin, even adultery. If the person is now living a life honoring God after having confessed and repented of sins regarding previous marriages, there should not be a problem. However, if there was a previous marriages, and there is still a living ex-wife, then there is a huge possibility that the ex may have something to say about the person being beyond reproach. In this case, those considering the person for the office should contact the ex and make sure that she isn’t going to bring up something that will bring shame on the church. If she is still bitter and angry, then the man is not qualified to be an elder. It may not be his fault, but being beyond reproach is an extremely high standard.

Temperate – Self-Controlled

A couple of words are used next to expand on the inner character of a man worthy of being an elder. NASB uses prudent instead of self-controlled, but it all comes down to the same thing. When I think of a temperate person, I think about weather. A temperate location is an area that doesn’t see extremes in temperature. I shouldn’t see 120 or -60 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9  or -51.1 Celsius). In the same way, if I’m temperate, I will not show extreme swings in moods, behavior, or even passions. A temperate person is one who is restrained in his behavior and attitude. It is very similar to being self-controlled. These are fruits of the Spirit Eph 4:30-32 And  do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,  by whom you were sealed for the day of  redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV). A person can’t be temperate or mild without the power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is grieved when I don’t get rid of all things that are the exact opposite of the qualities I need as a Christian. Temperate and self-controlled people do not stew in bitterness or lash out in anger. They don’t want to get even when a wrong is done to them but are forgiving. If these extremes are observed in a candidate for elder, then he should be disqualified.
When it comes to governing the church, a temperate person is required so that his projects and goals are not random or incomplete. A person may be very passionate about a ministry and work to establish it. However, if he is not temperate or prudent, he may not follow through or let it drop as a new passion develops. As a result, time and effort is wasted by many. If I’m led by the Holy Spirit, then I would expect to complete the work that He has given me. If I’m not led by the Holy Spirit then it is very likely that my goals keep changing and my effectiveness is diminished.
Respectable
If I’ve met the previous standards, why wouldn’t I be respectable? Prov 18:13 He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame. (NIV) This is one example of a person who loses respect. He is a know-it-all, and for some reason can’t seem to hold his tongue so that he can hear another person before speaking. Some are not obvious, they appear to be listening but are really formulating what they will say when the other stops. While the person may be very educated and a beyond reproach, he drops a notch in respectability when he doesn’t listen to others. He doesn’t process what the other person said and is only interested in giving his opinion or demonstrating his superiority.
Prov 15:2 The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. (RSV) Another person that drops in respectability is the one who doesn’t know when to stop talking. The wise person will speak his mind and have a good discussion. When the points have been made, he will be at peace. The fool loses respect because he is the one that always has to have the last word. He needs to be affirmed that he is right, in authority, or some other need. He keeps talking and talking and talking. It may even be very good useful information to start with, but I lose respect for him when I can’t make a comment without him making a comment on my comment and expanding on it. It is difficult to end a conversation with this person and feel like they have heard you.
Eph 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (ESV) A person who is normally beyond reproach can easily fall from respectability when there is foolish talk. Some men find it OK to be a bit crude in their language when women aren’t around. They wouldn’t dream of using the same kind of language around women. So why is it OK among men? Maybe it isn’t even crudeness but sharpness that is the issue. An otherwise respectable person can lose respect when he is often short, snappy, or uses clever put-downs in conversation.
Hospitable
1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. (NKJV) Some people are more hospitable than others. I don’t feel like I’m much of a hospitable person. Perhaps it is because of my social upbringing or lack of social skills. However, that doesn’t excuse me from being hospitable when the opportunity arises. This verse is in the form of a command. As with many of God’s directives, it isn’t just about doing something. It also requires the correct attitude. If I welcome people in my home and attend to their needs, making them feel at home but wish they weren’t there, I’ve missed the whole concept of hospitality.
Able to Teach
At first, I thought this is one of the attributes of an elder that may not apply to every Christian. I was stopped in that thought as soon as I remembered each of is a teacher in one role or another. Consider parents. Prov 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (NASB) Parents are instructed to teach their children. Titus 2:4 says that older women are to train younger women.
Matt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of  all nations,  baptizing them  in  the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them  to observe all that  I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (ESV) If I want to be a disciple of Jesus then I need to observe the commands He has given. One of those commands is to teach others. I may not be called to a formal teaching position, but the fact remains that people all around me observe me and in many ways, I teach other.
One warning remains though, for those who do want to be in a formal teaching position (and this is what an elder should be expected to do). James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. (RSV) When I teach, I need to make sure that what I say is correct. James was concerned with those who are formally teaching, but I think this applies to any teaching. As a parent, I can’t teach my children false doctrine, inaccurately about Scripture, or poor social skills. If I’m discipling an individual, I need to make sure that what I teach is correct.
Not Addicted to Wine
I would think that this would be obvious. However, it was something that Paul had to include. Many churches have asked their pastors and elders to agree to abstain from all alcohol if they want to serve. The reason is to make sure there is never a reason to offend or tempt someone who has a problem with alcohol. Personally, I believe this to be a good policy for all Christians.
Since there is not a prohibition in Scripture against alcohol, I have come to this conclusion based on the following two verses. Eph 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (NIV) 1 Thess 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit, (RSV) I have noted that one glass of wine or one beer affects me, even if it is only slightly. I can sense that my brain isn’t working as well as it does without the alcohol. This deadening of my senses, without a doubt, quenches the Holy Spirit even if it is minor. It is no wonder that alcohol used to be called spirits. Do I want to yield myself to God’s Spirit or the spirits of alcohol? When I asked myself that question, the answer was clear.
Not Pugnacious (Violent) but Gentle
Hi, my name is Elder Sam and if you don’t like it, I’ll punch you in the nose. I can see why this was listed together with not being an alcoholic. The attitude and tendency for violence quite often go hand in hand with alcoholism.
However there are many areas where violence might show up even without an addictive background. It might be wise to commute to work in busy traffic with an elder candidate. That should show if he has a tendency toward road rage, swearing at other divers, or aggressive driving habits.
Prov 3:31-32 Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. (NIV) There are some people who think that a man must be aggressive to be a real man. They believe turning the other cheek is a sign of weakness. God makes it very clear that He detests a person who gets what he want by aggression and violence. An upright person is just the opposite and God takes him into His confidence. A violent person doesn’t learn from the Word of God, but the upright will know and understand God.
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (NKJV) Gentleness is the mark of a spiritual Christian, especially an elder. Elders often have to deal with wandering sheep and restore them. It is easy for me to want to come down hard on a person who has sinned. However, that is not the right way according to Paul. Gentleness doesn’t mean weakness either.
Uncontentious
A contentious person has to argue about everything. I think he is related to the person who has lost respect because he doesn’t listen or has to have the last word. Eph 4:3-6 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (NLT) If I follow this clear teaching, then I’m not going to start arguments rather, I’m going to be looking at ways to build unity among believers. Of course, there will be some who don’t agree with sound doctrine and there will be disputes when that happens. That’s where gentleness comes into play again.
Free from the Love of Money
1 Tim 6:9-10 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. (RSV) I’ll have more to say about these verses when I get to chapter six. However, just reading these verses shows how an elder must be free from this temptation. Elders often are in charge of finances in the church. Many a Christian leader has fallen because they were drawn into the temptation to use the church funds for their own use.
More Qualities
There are still more qualities of elders (or any of us) in the next verses. As I’ve gone over these, I can see where I have room for improvement. I pray that as I continue, I’ll be able to come closer to Jesus and what He wants me to be.